Mona Voelkel

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Map Tricky Phonemes to Graphemes with a Listening Activity!

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Help students at the “Partial Alphabetic” phase (Ehri, 1995) to map phonemes to graphemes by asking them to listen for words that represent a particular phoneme like /iː/ as in <eat> ( first give them time to feel the phoneme in their mouth and look in a mirror as they articulate the sound) as you reread a picture book aloud. Words with the targeted phoneme can be listed during the rereading and then sorted afterwards by grapheme (spelling pattern) and grapheme position. Afterwards, engage the students in the “So what, Now what” Thinking Routine. Some possible outcomes:

“So what?”: “The phoneme /iː/ can be represented by a variety of graphemes: <ie><ee><ea><i> and <y>. Are there other graphemes that represent /iː/?”

Now what?: “In my reading and spelling, I can use what I learned today to decode and spell. I will add graphemes and words to the chart as I find them. The words on the chart can be used as a word bank for my writing.”

Research shows that readers at the “Partial Alphabetic” stage have not yet “glued” the phonemes to the graphemes which, along with understanding the meaning of the word, is crucial to cementing these understanding into long-term memory so words can be automatically identified.

Teachers, through informal and formal assessments of decoding and spelling, can determine what phoneme/grapheme relationships are not yet stored in long-term memory. If using a Structured Word Inquiry approach, teachers can introduce, in addition to student-led inquiry, words that contain graphemes that are not yet fully bonded to the phonemes in memory. After word inquiry, including phoneme/grapheme correspondence, a teacher could create a chart, like the one above, to explore grapheme-phoneme correspondences.

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